At a meeting in Beijing with Chinese Premier H.E Li Keqiang Thursday, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama spoke about how to balance trade and aviation agreements between Fiji and China.
“We expressed our concern about the imbalance of Fiji’s trading relationship with China and the obstacles we face in obtaining reasonable access to the Chinese market for our goods and services,” the Prime Minister told the Chinese Premier. Fiji currently imports $5.60 worth of Chinese products for every $1.00 of Fijian imports sold in China.
A large part of this imbalance is due to tariffs that are being imposed by China on Fijian made, Fijian grown products. Prime Minister Bainimarama asked Premier Li to lift the tariffs and replace them with duty free access to the Chinese market, as given to some other Pacific Island nations.
On aviation, the Chinese government is proposing an agreement that would have the effect of steering business away from Fiji Airways.
The Prime Minister said Fiji could not agree to such a plan.
Currently, Fiji Airways flies the Nadi to Hong Kong route, three times a week. The airline has made substantial investments in the route to make it viable from a business perspective.
In a Memorandum of Understanding presented to Fiji earlier this month, the Chinese Government proposed to originate flights from anywhere in China to Nadi, and also added a provision allowing Chinese airlines to make at least three intermediate stops along the way, as well as points beyond.
China’s huge passenger capacity and its ability to undercut the fares of Fiji Airways would lure fliers away from Fiji Airways and cause a negative effect on the airline.
There is an existing Air Services Agreement between Fiji and China, which has yet to be enacted that would open a Nadi-Beijing route for both countries with a code sharing arrangements. PM called for this plan to be implemented.
Asking for China’s support at the World Climate Summit in Paris at the end of November, PM told the Chinese Premier, “Our collective challenge right now is to get the world, and especially the industrialised nations, to face up to the acute crisis we are facing and take immediate steps to halt the warming process.” “No nation,” he said, “should be part of what I have called the coalition of the selfish.”
Fiji, he said, would lead the campaign along with other Pacific nations. “We ask you to use your global influence to enable us to have our voices heard at the highest level.”